Visionaries and Wayfinders: Deliberate and Emergent Pathways to Vision in Social Entrepreneurship

Journal of Business Ethics 133 (4):719-734 (2016)

Abstract

This study explores the pathways from the aspiration to make a difference in the world to vision and action of social entrepreneurs. Based on the qualitative analysis of interviews with 23 individuals who have pioneered institutions and initiatives around corporate responsibility, we find two predominant pathways to vision. The deliberate path starts with aspiration and moves through purpose toward a relatively intentional vision that ultimately leads to, and is subsequently informed by, action. The emergent path also begins with aspiration then moves directly to action and only retrospectively to a sense of a vision behind the actions taken. The emergent path, in which action precedes vision, is contrary to the dominant assumption that vision leads to action in an entrepreneurial context and may be further characterized as either inadvertent or developmental. In advancing a conceptual model of the vision–action or action–vision trajectories of social entrepreneurs, this study highlights the iterative nature of vision. This study also demonstrates the importance of considering formative experiences that contribute to the aspiration to make some kind of a difference in the world, a sense of purpose or intentions, and core values and beliefs in examining the ethicality of social entrepreneurship.

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